Tuesday, January 16, 2024

It's light, breezy and artfully silly


Director Francois Ozon wisely stocks The Crime Is Mine with veteran French actors. The list includes Fabrice Luchini (as a judge), Regis Laspales (as a detective), Olivier Broche (as a clerk to a judge), and Dany Boon (as an architect). I begin here because in revamping a 1934 play, Ozon needed actors with a deep understanding of the ripe exaggerations needed for screwball comedy. Add Isabelle Huppert as a fading silent film star, and Andre Dussollier as the head of a tire-manufacturing company and you've got the makings of an old-fashioned comedy served with a feminist twist. Rebecca Marder and Nadia Terezkiewicz give the movie its center as down-and-out roommates -- one a lawyer, the other an actress. This youthful duo finds itself caught up in a murder. Ozon includes a trial that perhaps anticipates the age of tabloid sensation because the defendant views the courtroom as a launching pad for an acting career. It's difficult to resist the performances of a cast intent on making the most of every opportunity to display finely honed character chops. The Crime Is Mine stands as a fine example of how smartly to execute farcical material that easily could evaporated in the mists of nostalgia. Better yet, Ozon plays with old-fashioned forms without needing to declare his superiority to them. There’s also icing on the cake: Production designer Jean Rabasse, cinematographer Manuel Dacosse, and costume designer Pascaline Chavanne give this pleasure of a movie a rich retro look.

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